There is no shortage of outstanding inns with fine dining throughout New England, but the White Barn Inn is the only AAA Five Diamond, Mobil Five Star restaurant north of New York City. Nestled in the coastal enclave of Kennebunk, Maine, the legendary property makes for the perfect escape from Newport, Boston and beyond. Less than three hours from Newport, the White Barn Inn has an intimate connection to the City-by-the-Sea: Vanderbilt Grace is considered its sister property. The inn’s Executive Chef, Jonathan Cartwright, one of the most celebrated chefs in New England, also creates and oversees the menu at Muse at Vanderbilt Grace.
In the mood for a weekend getaway, I headed north to experience the White Barn. Like Newport, Kennebunkport might shine brightest in the warmer months, but this time of year, there’s a serene calm that permeates the village. Much like Newport’s Ocean Drive, Kennebunkport’s Ocean Avenue weaves around the rocky coast and offers an up close glimpse to stunning “more is more” homes. And like Newport’s presidential connections, Kennebunkport has its own famous first family: the Bush compound, where George H.W. and Barbara spend much of the year.
The White Barn Inn is less than a mile from Kennebunkport’s iconic Dock Square and close to the Lower Village. Constructed from a boarding house on the site that dates back to the early 1800s, the White Barn Inn evokes bucolic charm but with unmistakable Relais & Château luxury. (To give you an idea, Newport’s Castle Hill is also a Relais & Château property). With a blend of rooms, suites and private guest cottages located inside a private gated compound on the Kennebunk River, you’ll find diverse lodging options. The elegantly appointed junior suite I stayed in, awash in hues of soft blues and crisp white, included a gas-burning fireplace, queen- size down-topped bed, large flat-screen TV, comfortable lounges, and an oversized granite and marble bathroom stocked with Molton Brown bath products, Jacuzzi tub (opposite the fireplace) and separate walk-in rain shower.
Despite White Barn Inn’s luxury accommodations, the Inn is most recognized for its dining, making most gourmands bucket list. Housed in a 19th century barn and appointed with its signature floor to ceiling picture windows, the décor embraces it’s rustic surroundings with warm wood walls and ceilings and authentic antiques celebrating the region’s heritage. Whether dining in the main restaurant which offers a legendary prix-fixe, four-course chef’s tasting menu, or the Bistro, the menus both reflect flavors of New England and coastal Maine as well as landlubbers’ favorites. (CLICK HERE to learn more about the Bocuse d’Or Foundation Dinner on 2/20 featuring a collaboration between Chef Kristen Kish, Winner of Bravo TV’s Top Chef Season 10 and Chef Cartwright.) Our server, Angela, was extraordinary and helped us sort through the many decadent choices. She also helped us decide on a fabulous wine: MollyDooker Cabernet, an Australian wine known for the MollyDooker shake—a hearty tussle given to the bottle before pouring to shake up the nitrogen the winery infuses during the winemaking process in place of sulfites. Back the Main House, sherry and port wines are available 24/7 in self-serve decanters, so an after dinner drink by the fire might be the perfect nightcap.
If your ideal getaway includes some pampering, the spa at the White Barn Inn offers a full menu of services, and coffee, tea and light bites are at the ready in the living room. Breakfast, as expected, was perfection with a “hot” menu featuring eggs, French Toast, omelets and more as well as pastry, cereal, and parfaits. Assistant Innkeeper Albert Black and the staff at the White Barn Inn can help guests find anything they may need to make the story more comfortable (though I can’t imagine what might be missing). For more information on the White Barn Inn, visit www.whitebarninn.com
Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary room night at the White Barn Inn for purposes of this independent review. All opinions are my own.